(CNSNews.com) – More than two dozen prominent pro-life and Catholic leaders have signed a statement urging Catholic colleges and universities “to reject the culture of death and instead stand firm in defending truth and the Catholic identity of their institutions… by refusing to honor and award speaking platforms to public advocates of abortion and same-sex marriage.”
The statement, which was released Wednesday by the Cardinal Newman Society, was prompted by “scandals” at three Catholic universities that are honoring people who openly defy Catholic teaching, including Vice President Joe Biden.
Signatories include Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life; Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage; Jennifer Kimball Watson, director of the Culture of Life Foundation; and Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com.
The University of Notre Dame will award its prestigious Laetare Medal to Biden, the nation’s highest-ranking pro-abortion Catholic, at its commencement ceremony in South Bend, Indiana on May 15th. Biden will share the award with former House Speaker John Boehner.
Notre Dame’s Department of Gender Studies also invited former state Sen. Wendy Davis, who gained nationwide attention in 2013 for filibustering a pro-life bill in the Texas legislature, to speak on campus last month. Davis reportedly told students that she aborted her unborn daughter, who had genetic deformities, “out of love” – and that pro-life values should not be “imposed” on other people.
In 2009, the university invited President Obama - who is currently using the Affordable Care Act to force Catholic institutions, including Notre Dame, to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs contrary to church teaching - to give its commencement address and receive an honorary law degree.
While in California, he raised money for the presidential campaign of his wife, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, who recently said that “the unborn person doesn’t have Constitutional rights”.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards was invited to speak at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. last month as part of a campus lecture series. She received a standing ovation after telling 400 students at the nation’s oldest Catholic university that the killing of unborn babies was “a basic human right.”
Other Catholic colleges and universities scheduled to honor people who publicly oppose Church teaching this year include Gonzaga University Law School, La Roche College, Merrimack College, Saint Mary’s College of California, and Seattle University, according to LifeNews.com.
“We’ve certainly spoken out against this sort of thing for decades, but this year was particularly disappointing despite the bishops’ very strict statement that such events were inappropriate,” Newman Society president Patrick Reilly told CNSNews.
In its 2004 document entitled Catholics in Political Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
“The Church’s expectations for Catholic education are clear,” the statement released Wednesday said. “The truths of the Catholic faith – and indeed, all human experience – are also clear: innocent human life must be protected, and the institution of marriage between man and woman is essential for children, family, and community.”
“Academic freedom” or “freedom of speech” is not a valid reason to justify “opponents of known moral truths for special honor,” it continued. “Moreover, there is no ‘freedom’ in presenting lectures that include one-sided advocacy for evil,” which “has the consequence of binding young people in the chains of falsehood and sin.”
“The leaders of these institutions are probably less focused on trying to oppose the bishops and more concerned about this radical notion of academic freedom,” Reilly told CNSNews. “They bought the argument of a lot of leading Catholic educators that it’s impossible to be genuinely Catholic and still remain a strong institution of higher learning.
“But that argument goes against the very foundation of higher education, because the first universities were Catholic.”
Reilly added that high-profile commencement addresses and highly promoted lecture series are rarely about academic freedom.
“I don’t think that there is any commencement address in the United States that could genuinely be considered an academic exercise,” Reilly told CNSNews. “Significantly, it’s about finding someone who generates the most publicity.
“Cecile Richards’ lecture at Georgetown was simply a pep rally for Planned Parenthood,” he pointed out. “Some of the Jesuit priests urged the organizers to allow at least one opposing speaker to present Catholic tradition, but they refused.”